In the middle of our group meditation it hit me: “What we are doing right now could save the world!” We were a group of eleven adults entering into a silent day retreat I call “The Heart of Mindfulness.” We were standing in a circle to set our intentions for the day. Most people there did not know each other. So to enhance the sense of our connection I invited everyone to begin holding hands. That’s when it hit me. The words that came out of my mouth were these: “We’re all in this together.”
At first I was imagining that truth on a small scale, that “we are in this day retreat together.” But the larger Truth came to me immediately, that “We in the human community are all in this together.” By this I meant this life, this journey, this adventure of being a global community. And a giant Truth came after that: “If we all knew this across the world that, we’re all in this together, wars would immediately cease. Political, religious, cultural, sexual, racial battles of every kind would end, because we would know we are part of each other. We could not harm each other because that would harm ourselves.”
We began the day resonating with the Great Truth: “We’re all in this together.” We could call it the “WAIT Together Meditation.”
After a seamless passage from one contemplative practice to another through our six hours together, we concluded with a loving-kindness meditation for ourselves, a loved one, a stranger, a difficult person, and all beings. That practice takes seriously the spiritual reality that every being is a unique image of God. We were practicing the truth inwardly by knowing that every being is thus worthy of love and belonging. (In the photo above, a large group of us were practicing the same truth outwardly through signing the Hebrew letters for “image of God” on each other, as directed by Rabbi Rami Shapiro at our 7th Annual Contemplative Conference last Fall).
Then our small band of mindful and heartful travelers closed the day with a unique way of being aware of our interconnectedness. Our closing ritual involved rubbing loving-kindness into each others’ shoulders. What???
We stood in a tight circle, shoulder to shoulder, and then turned to face the same direction, taking a small step toward the center of the circle so that each person could easily reach the shoulders of the person in front of them. Then the person behind us could also easily reach our shoulders. I invited us all to fill our hearts with loving-kindness in a moment of silence.
Then I called on the group to let the loving-kindness rise up from their hearts through their arms and hands. Then I asked them to begin rubbing that love into the shoulders of that person in front of them. Just then we all noticed that we were also receiving the same rubbing of love from the person behind us. I spoke another Great Truth: “This is how the world is supposed to work. We give and receive love equally. This is what the Divine intended from the beginning. We love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”
The feeling was fantastic, so I had us continue for several minutes. Then I called on us all to stop rubbing the shoulders and to leave our hands there. Then I said we should make a simple prayer for the person in front of us by wishing for their well-being, remembering that they are a unique image of God. We fell into silence and prayed from our hearts through our hands and into them.
Just when you would think the ritual should be over, I asked the group to drop their hands to their sides, to make an about face, and to put their hands on the shoulders of the person who was previously behind them. Then we started over with the same ritual in the other direction. I just had to ask: “Is this delicious or what?”
I had to make the joke that I was only sharing the ritual for their sakes, not because I love getting my shoulders rubbed in the process. Once again in the other direction we had a direct experience of the Great Truth: “We’re all in this together,” through a WAIT Together Meditation, or a Rubbing Loving-Kindness into Shoulders Meditation.
I have loved sharing the ritual for over twenty years. It expresses a holy Truth, and provides a direct experience of that truth that can be felt in heart and body. So maybe you will stop reading right now, and let yourself fall down into a meditation that could save the world. If you are super lucky, maybe you will even find the courage to invite some people you know to experience a We’re All In This Together Meditation through a Rubbing Loving-Kindness into Shoulders Meditation. If you want some guidance you can contact me through our School for Contemplative Living. Let’s save the world. Let’s start now!